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'No going back to Boom and Bert': Eamon Gilmore's speech to the Labour conference

“I am here because I believe in making our country better,” Eamon Gilmore told Labour members in a televised speech from Killarney tonight.
Nov 30th 2013, 9:00 PM 10,612 97

THE TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has delivered his party leader’s address at the Labour national conference in Killarney, Co Kerry tonight.

Gilmore did not outline any new policy initiatives but did hint at the possibility of tax cuts in the remaining lifetime of this government.

In the live televised speech, he told delegates: “I hope we will be able to relieve somewhat the burden of taxation on working people.”

Gilmore acknowledged the difficulties that coalition government has created for Labour and accepted responsibility for the decisions taken. He said that Labour is distinct from Fine Gael but united in seeing through its full term.

Watch: Eamon Gilmore’s entrance

Here is the speech in full:

Tonight, I want to talk about the future.

About our future as a people and as a country.

The prospects for our children.

The future for families.

About how we can create more jobs, keep more of our young people at home, and start to bring home those who have left.

About how we can start to have a more positive conversation about where we are going.

But these are still difficult times. Some of the most difficult in the 95 year history of our state. And it is hard to talk, or even think about the future while we are still coping with the present. Juggling all the pressures to make ends meet. Feeling squeezed on all sides. Still trying to claw our way out of the crisis.

The people of this country didn’t cause the crisis, and the Labour Party didn’t cause it either. But 1,000 days ago, when Labour took on the responsibility of Government, this country was broke, and the Government that broke it, was itself broken. They had handed the d eeds of the country to the banks and then they had surrendered the keys to the Troika when the IOUs were called in.

These past few years have been tough and we still have a distance to travel, but for the first time since the crisis began, we can dare to hope again. To face the future and to see a way forward for ourselves, as individuals, as families and as a people.

Before the last election, Fianna Fáil had brought this country to its knees. Today, with Labour, and because of the sacrifices of the Irish people, we are climbing back on our feet again.

We are creating new jobs, 1200 every week! Unemployment is falling. Things are beginning to improve.

And two weeks from tomorrow, on December 15th, we will exit from the EU/IMF bail-out programme.

We are getting back on our feet and now we must step forward to the next stage. Ending the seemingly endless crisis.

At last, we can begin to move on from the day to day struggle for survival, and the week to week search for recovery, to begin again to think about a better future. To start to live again.

It hasn’t been easy. The work of Government sometimes sounds very formal and the language of economics can be cold and remote. But really, when it comes down to the essentials, managing a country is not that much different to managing a home or a business. You cannot spend what you don’t have. You cannot borrow if nobody will lend to you. And anyway you should never borrow too much because it has to be paid back. And when you are short of money you have to make some very difficult choices.

There were times, especially in the early stages, in 2011, when I feared we wouldn’t make it. What happens if a country runs out of money? How, in those circumstances, do you keep the schools and hospitals open, and keep the police on the streets, and how do you persuade the job creators to invest? Believe me, if we had not come to grips with it, this could all have gon e from crisis to disaster.

Labour always believed that the EU/IMF bailout plan agreed by Fianna Fáil was deeply flawed. It was a plan based on debt, not growth. The loans were too expensive, the conditions too onerous, and there was no plan to create jobs. And yet, without those bailout loans, the country had only five months money left. Five months money to pay for pensions, for wages, for hospitals. We had the money to run the schools until the summer, but no money to reopen them that September – unless we took the Troika loans.

When you are in that position, when your country is in that position, things become very clear. You have to decide very quickly what the bottom line is. To me there was only one answer: we had to fix the problem. Ignoring it or prolonging it was not an option. So in everything we had to do, only one thing mattered: fixing the problem. What would make the problem better or worse? Would the decisions we made each day, improve the positio n of the country, or wouldn’t they?

And it was about the country. It was about the future. This was no time to put party advantage before national responsibility. This was a moment of national crisis which required of us to think not about the next election but about the next generation.

Bit by bit, piece by piece, we renegotiated the EU/IMF programme from within. Cutting the cost of the loans, changing the terms and conditions, putting in place a strategy for jobs. Repairing Ireland’s reputation abroad and reconstructing the programme so that it was as fair as it could be. We ended the bank guarantee. We ended the promissory note. And we liquidated Anglo.

And no-one did more to free our country from the shackles of the bailout, than that great servant of Labour, Brendan Howlin.

It could of course have been very different. If Labour had not done what Labour has done, we could all be here tonight, perhaps in the political comfort of opposition, but instead of exiting the bailout, our country would be going into a second one; with workers facing a collapse in their wages; our schools, hospitals and pensioners facing huge cuts in their money and hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost as investors drew away from a failing economy. The future would look very different then as we would be facing a sentence of maybe 20 years austerity, before we could recover.

Not everyone has been happy with some of the decisions we have had to make. I understand that and I accept responsibility for it. But we always knew that this was going to be tough. And it has been.

This is not a Labour government or a Labour-led government. It is a coalition Government.

Labour and Fine Gael are different parties, sometimes with very different approaches and instincts. A lot of our battles have been fought in private and our compromises made in public. That is in the nature of coalition government.

But we are both agreed on the necessity and urgency of recovery and we are both determined to see it through. And we will. And I want to acknowledge, in particular, the pragmatic and honourable approach of the Taoiseach Enda Kenny in all of the work we do together.

The crisis is not all fully fixed yet, but because of the progress we have made, we can now at last begin to look forward to post recession Ireland. And because Labour is the Party of work, the creation of jobs is the first item on our agenda for the future.

Labour has always argued that economic recovery is not just about balancing the budget and getting the deficit down. That of course is important and we are determined to complete that job, but recovery is only real when the unemployed are back at work, when there are new jobs for the young coming out of school and college and new jobs at home for those who have gone abroad. When incomes are growing and people can see a better tomorrow for their children.

In the t hree years before the last General Election, 250.000 jobs were lost under Fianna Fail. 7000 every month for 3 years. We have turned that around, now we are creating 1200 new jobs a week.

But we need to do more, because far too many of our fellow citizens still have no work, or not enough work, or work that doesn’t pay enough to meet the bills.

The Labour Party believes in the right to work, and so we say that this country needs a new target for the future – a target by which to steer our economy with the same determination that we brought to getting out of the bailout – and that target is full employment. Full employment is not something we can achieve overnight, but we can get there, if we work at it today and every day, and plan for tomorrow.

That is why we have included 25 new measures in the recent budget to support job creation, including keeping the reduced VAT for the hospitality sector. That is why we introduced the tax reliefs for home improvements which will lead to more jobs in construction. Which is on top of what we have already done to support jobs through building schools and other public projects, as part of the Stimulus Package announced by Brendan Howlin. We need the construction industry to come back up to a normal level of activity – not to the levels of the boom – but enough to provide homes for those who need them, and jobs for some of the many thousands of building workers who have no work.

To support the drive for jobs, we need investment, so we are creating a 6 billion Euro Strategic Investment Fund to generate more and better jobs.

A future of unemployment or underemployment is no future for our young people. That is why Labour, and Joan Burton in particular, led the initiative at European level to establish the Youth Guarantee, and now we must work to make it a reality so that no young person under 25 will be out of work, or education and training for longer than a few m onths.

We will keep up our efforts to repair the country’s reputation, to grow our trade, and to attract new jobs, because we live in a changing world. And a good Government should anticipate change, and plan for it.

Within a decade, China will be the largest economy in the world, and the centre of economic gravity across the globe will have shifted to emerging markets like Indonesia and Brazil. We have to build up new relationships with those countries, so we can trade with them. And while we often think of Africa in terms of aid, today, five of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa, countries where Ireland already has deep ties. That is why this month Joe Costello led the first ever Irish Trade mission to Nigeria.

Full employment is our new economic goal, but it’s not about having any old job. We want our people to have good jobs, that can generate a living income. Labour is right to set our face against those who would have us ed the crisis to make Ireland a low wage economy and drive a race to the bottom. We restored the minimum wage, we re-instated the systems that protect wage standards. And we will legislate for collective bargaining rights.

We want people who work hard, to earn enough to be able to support their family, and give their children the best possible start in life. We want to ease the pressure on working families.

We are extending the book rental scheme to help families with the cost of school books, we are giving parents a voice in the cost of school uniforms, and we are extending free GP care to children age 5 and under.

We want to release those people who are trapped under the burden of debt.

We have changed the law to give people better options for dealing with unsustainable debts and mortgage arrears, and the personal insolvency service is now up and running.

And as this economy improves, we want hard pressed families to be able to share in the gain, to be able to aspire again to improved incomes, to advancement and when the country’s finances permit, I hope we will be able to relieve somewhat the burden of taxation on working people.

I am here because I believe in making our country better. I believe in an Ireland that reflects the basic decency of our people. I believe in building a country that offers a fair break for those who want to work hard and provide for their families. That offers opportunity, and the security of knowing that if things go wrong you’re not on your own.

Labour believes that health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold. We believe in Universal Health Insurance because we want the best possible health service for everyone. Free GP care for under 5s is the first instalment of our plan to radically reform the health service, and I want to commend the great work Alex White and Kathleen Lynch are doing in the Department of Health in building up primary care and devel oping community mental health services.

Just like Jan O’Sullivan, who has found the resources to restart the building of social housing, and to clean up ghost estates.

Alan Kelly who is redefining and modernizing public transport. Sean Sherlock who is leading on research and innovation to attract the jobs of the future.

Like Ruairi Quinn, who in the toughest of times has not increased class sizes and who, in less than three years has built 2700 classrooms, replacing cold, damp and expensive prefabs.

For Labour, education is the key that unlocks a positive future for our children – whatever it may hold. Education is about our values. About giving our children a fair start. That is why Ruairi is leading an overhaul of our education system, starting early by getting the basics right, with a renewed focus on literacy and maths. Reforming the Junior Cert to make it more relevant. And with Pat Rabbitte, finding the resources to connect every secon d level school to high speed broadband.

Labour is the party of fairness. So, even in the most difficult of times we have maintained a threshold of decency in welfare, in pensions, in wages. We refuse to stand by while another generation is marked out for long-term unemployment.

So Joan and Ruairi are driving ahead with the Pathways to Work reforms. We have made the tax code fairer, and Ireland now has one of the most progressive tax systems in Europe.

Fairness comes in many forms, and sometimes fairness means coming to terms with the past, so that we can face into the future. That is why, after so many years, we have enshrined the rights of children in our constitution and recognised the wrong done to the Magdalen women.

And it is why this week with Frances Fitzgerald I launched the next phase of the ABC programme, aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty in some of our most disadvantaged communities. Targeting resources to deal with the causes of pover ty in the very earliest years of a child’s life. Because Labour believes in an Ireland where who you are and how far you go should not be confined by where you came from.

Labour has always led on reform. I am proud, that after twenty years, this is the Government that legislated for the X case to make pregnancy safer for Irish women.

But we have to do more. More to make sure today’s Ireland reflects today’s values.

Right now, only one in eight TDs in the Dáil are women. That’s not an Ireland I recognize. That’s why we want to change the face of Irish politics, starting with our new legislation to push political parties towards a minimum threshold of women candidates at the next general election.

And we will build on the pioneering work of the Constitutional Convention – another Labour idea in action – to put the case for the right of gay people to marry to the Irish people. A referendum we will fight, and we will win, in 2015.

For Labour, exiting the Bailout was never an end in itself. It was always the means to an end. The foundation on which we build a more secure future. Secure economically, but also secure on our streets, in our communities and in our families.

That is why this week Alan Shatter will be advertising to recruit new Gardai. And why we are working to preserve the peace in Northern Ireland, to minimise the threat from extremists, and build a more secure peace for all parts of the island. An Ireland at peace will always be safer and more prosperous.

But there are new risks to safety, especially for children. Labour wants an Ireland that really does cherish its children, with time and space for children to be children. To develop and grow up with exciting new technologies but not to be exploited by them or to be exposed to new risks. That is why Pat Rabbitte is launching a new enquiry into internet safety, to find out how we can do more to help parents to protect their c hildren on line.

Labour in Government has made choices, and they were the right choices, because the plan is working. The economy is starting to recover. Jobs are being created. We are climbing back onto our feet again.

But I know there are people, right across this country tonight, who don’t really feel that. People who are living from day to day, and from week to week. Worried about how they’ll cope with an unexpected bill, like if the washing machine breaks down, or someone gets sick. Grandparents who watched the Toyshow last night, and thought of what they might send to the grandchild they can only see on Skype. People who don’t dare to hope, because the future is too frightening. A new generation paying the price of bad politics in hardship and separation.

We cannot go back to the politics of the past.

No going back to Boom and Bert.

No going back to the Ireland run for golden circles; with an economy built on sand

Our people de serve more than that.

Our country deserves better than that.

We have come too far, and we have been through too much.

The progress we have made is due to the hard work and the endurance of the people of this country, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

There is again a future.

It is a future that belongs to everyone.

It is a future which has been hard earned by the sacrifices of the people.

It must not be put at risk

Not by any cynic.

Not by any politician

Not by any interest group from whatever quarter.

Let us all determine tonight, not just in this hall, but throughout the country, that we will no longer fear the future.

That we will work together for the future.

That we will hope again. And live again.

Ar aghaidh. Ar aghaidh less an obair. Ar aghaidh leis an lucht oibre.

Thank You.

Watch: Post-speech standing ovation

Read TheJournal.ie’s full coverage of the Labour Party national conference >

Read: Joan Burton admits Labour’s failures on living standards

More: Labour conference hears call for Gilmore to resign over disability cuts

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